We are each one of us entitled to our own opinions, viewpoints and paradigms .. so we say and so we're told. The trouble is .. our opinions, viewpoints and theories significantly shape and determine the choices we make and the lifestyles we strive towards .. and none of these, though intangible at the outset, are without consequence.
From the crib to the daycare centre to the classroom to the boardroom to the bank to the retail outlet and back and forth between these various prisons and finally to the senior’s residence and to the palliative care unit, my life is one long tedious exercise of coping with incoherence and trying not to go crazy. This doesn’t mean I’m ungrateful or resentful or that I don’t experience moments of joy. I have enormous gratitude for life, but the things I’m grateful for have little to do with my boxed-in institutionalized life. In fact my gratitude is fuelled by the aliveness that occasionally manages to break through the cracks of the prevailing grind of the societal machine.
The art of deep relating requires that we in fact take things personally but that at the same time we recognize our personal selves to be deeply imbedded in a larger ecology of organic symbiotic relatedness.
I can't help but wonder what the word would be to describe a class or culture of people who are content with simply having enough? Who are deeply capable of appreciating what they have without needing to have more and cushion themselves from the inevitable hardships of life .. a class of people who can trust in the goodwill of their kin and fellow comrades to share a genuine interest in each other's well being and the well being of all of life? What word would describe this class of people?
Rosenberg’s thought provoking statements were important signposts, and they still are. It’s not too late, at least in the context of appreciating and honouring his contribution to this world, to seek out and courageously address the multiple ways in which we are unwittingly complicit to the destruction of the planet and the commensurate deadening of the human spirit. If we could grant more attention and effort to a life-centric orientation rather than defaulting to a personal human-centric one, it’s quite possible that some of what Marshall was dreaming might take root.
Let’s recognize that questions like how do I get my child to cooperate, or how do I get my partner to open up, or how do I deal with anger are best approached holistically. Interdependence and interconnection IS the way of life. This means that our conduct with each other and the words we speak do not occur in isolation but are rooted in forces much larger than what is immediately apparent.
One of the pitfalls however of understanding NVC as being primarily about empathy is that if some quantifiable measure of mutual openness and connection doesn’t result from an exchange where at least one person is ostensibly adhering to basic NVC methodology, it can be concluded that that person is failing to practice NVC and is not being empathic.
That’s right. Ruin relationships! We could also call it the Thomas Edison approach .. a few tips on how not to light up the faces of those you love. For those who might be curious, here are some time-tested strategies:
Rosenberg could easily be described as a man, who to many, was the bearer of profound radical insights of the variety that could significantly change lives. People from around the world continue to discover his work, explore its depths and marvel at how learning NVC has in fact changed their lives.
What does it mean I wonder to live the life I've been dreaming of with all its accoutrements, to feel "healthy" or "empowered" or "successful" or attract more clients if the world around me is quietly and even sometimes not so quietly crumbling? Surely this is the epitome of self-interest. What deep love, sobriety and humility might we invite to our doors? So that we refuse the seductions and make sure we don't blink for one second?
Our freedom is an anomalous one. We are about as free as frogs in the proverbial cooking pot heating to slow boil. And in spite of our predicament, we need relationships, we need each other .. but we come to each other with our syndromes, with our silent PTSD, and we want to make a go of it and we want to find what works for us singularly under the guise of personal freedom and expression.
"Our repertoire of words for calling people names is often larger than our vocabulary of words that allow us to clearly describe our emotional states" says Rosenberg. Emotions typically run high in conflict situations and when people don't have the language to articulate their feelings and what fuels them with accuracy and precision, which they often don't, it's like being on a stormy sea with no one at the helm; people get tossed about on the waves, sails get ripped and the relation-ship runs aground in a hurtful place that is a long shot from where it could have landed. Once people have developed the skill of clearly articulating their experience rooted in a consciousness that holds reverence for all of life .. while at the same time maintaining a vigilant alertness to the modes of thinking and speaking that create roadblocks to honest and fruitful dialogue, conflict then becomes much easier and more satisfying to navigate.
Without trust, anything that people attempt to achieve together will fail or at least be poorly executed. The mark of good teamwork is the ever deepening awareness of how each and every move, even when barely perceptible, has a decidedly profound impact on the other and therefore equally on ourselves and the relationship as a whole. In high performance teamwork and marriages, there is great attention to detail, to movement, to response-ability, to the shifting of weight, to what comes next in the unfolding sequence .. each of these must be intelligently considered and respectfully held. In these relationships we find a kind of attunement to the other person and to the relationship itself as well as to what they would ultimately like to achieve. Agreements and promises must be kept because without them, the form crumbles .. it cannot be maintained without the bedrock of trust.
Mature love does not discriminate against feeling .. it grants entry to the full astonishing bandwidth, saying yes to the mayhem and the labour. Love holds us accountable .. it says .. don't expect me to do all the work for you .. don't mistake me for merely a sweet heavenly blissful feeling .. I'm so much more .. I'm robust, I'm strong, I've got teeth, I love hard work and I love the impossible. Show me what you've got and together we'll make something worthy of being talked about and remembered. Now let's get to work!
And so, no matter what day of the year it is today, may the following be true for you ..
May you fall madly in love this year .. in love with someone who unhinges your tired trajectory, in love with a spouse of several years who might be aching for lightning, in love with demanding children and crazy relatives .. in love with the particular pedigree of genius insanity that has perhaps claimed you in spite of your reluctance .. and certainly in love with an animal, a cloud, a redwood, the wild .. these at least once a day.
Today August 5th, 2014, Wendell Berry celebrates his 80th birthday. I've spent that last few hours watching videos, finding pictures and reading his words. Over the past year I've posted many of Wendell's quotes on FaceBook and plenty of people have liked and shared them. I could quote one every day for the rest of my life and never run out. Wendell Berry has written over 40 books of poetry, fiction and essays. I consider this man to be an absolute treasure, a person of appreciable consequence, an elder of celebrated stature and ultimately someone who we ought to be deeply honoured and grateful to have in our midst.
The reason I decided to embark on this petition whispered to me from a place with no fixed address was to stimulate a deepening wondering about life, about modern society, about generosity, about suffering, about privilege and responsibility, and ultimately about being human. I want to hold the wound of homelessness with grace and tenderness because it belongs to all of us no matter what our address.
I wonder .. could it be that, more precisely, depth and substance are contingent upon our willingness to fully see what happens around us? .. and to see it without turning away or making up a story or constructing a belief system about it that absolves us from any responsibility or deeper involvement requiring ever greater cultivation of our humanness?
February 2, the memorial service for Pete Seeger was held today in Beacon NY where he had lived for 40 years drawing over a thousand people wanting to bid goodbye. I've thought about him every day since he died last week. The moment I clicked the YouTube video and heard his honest and gentle voice accompanied by that sitting around the wood stove on a family farm banjo, the tears flowed.
I’ve ordered my Americano. The radio is on the music of the 70s station and so I will be quietly reminded of the tonal quality of my teen years. “You’ve got to hide your love away …” The Beatles were big back then. I sit down, get comfortable … and I watch. Small tables with two or more people gathered ‘round … deep in conversation. Students surfing the web or posting on Facebook while another is absorbed in the latest fiction.